The Men in OB Debate: Help!

  1. Hello everyone!

    I'll begin with a few caveats: first, I'm brand new here, and so this may or may not be the the right forum for my post. I see that there's a "men in nursing" sub-forum but a) I feel like people from all specialties and perspectives may want to weigh in on the question, and b) gender is more complicated than binary "male/female" categories. (I'm being personal and not political with that statement, I promise.)

    So, I am a nursing student in a BSN program and I graduate on December 14. I went into my studies not sure what type of nursing I wanted to do. I never thought I'd enjoy my OB rotation but it ended being my favorite rotation. I loved it. My current clinical instructor for advanced med/surg is an OB nurse, and she arranged for me to shadow on the L&D unit and help out at a pregnancy fair. The nurse manager on the unit took notice of my work and asked me to apply for the nurse residency program once I graduate. "I want to hire you," she said.

    Obviously, I was flattered and very excited. I didn't have any reservations about it until I posted an article about men in OB nursing on Facebook. While the overwhelming majority of responses were positive, there were those who professed a strong and passionate objection to men in the OB field. That childbirth is a uniquely female experience, and men can never relate to their patient as closely as a woman nurse can, was one reason given. The concern for women with a history of sexual abuse and trauma and how a male nurse could reintroduce feelings of trauma or open up emotional wounds was another. Finally, many women expressed that, in the current cultural/political landscape, women need more safe spaces where men are not present.

    I think all of these concerns are legitimate. And so, I'm torn. I love the work of OB and the feedback I've received from clinical instructors and other nurses is that I would shine in this field. But bearing in mind the fundamental principle of healthcare/nursing praxis, "do no harm," I am concerned that a man in OB might be too controversial and divisive. Maybe it is the wrong time, culturally and politically, for it.

    I'm throwing it out to this forum for feedback. I have heard from my friends, family, and colleagues, but I want to make the right choice. Please share your thoughts - pro, con, I want to hear all perspectives.

    Thank you! <3
    Last edit by jay_prn on Oct 13
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  2. 46 Comments

  3. by   kakamegamama
    Other than the fact you will be a RN and not an OB physician, what's the difference? Two of the best OB nurses I ever knew were men. Go for it and the best of luck!
  4. by   klone
    As someone who has worked in OB/Women's Health my entire career, I am in favor of men working in OB if that's where their passion lies. Women choose male OB physicians all the time, there's no reason why a male couldn't work successfully as an OB nurse.

    If a male nurse applied to my department because that's the area of nursing where he feels most interested/passionate, then I would have no issue hiring him.
  5. by   Cat365
    I cry " Baloney!" Ok, that's the clean version of my first thought. Let me take it in order.

    A) The nurse manager obviously thinks you would be an asset.

    B) There are a lot of male OB/GYN doctors. They are obviously not traumatizing their patients with their maleness.

    Yeah, once in awhile you may run into a patient that doesn't want a male nurse delivering her baby, but your going to get that on a Med-Surg floor too.


    Apply where you want to work.
  6. by   JKL33
    Welcome, Jay!

    If I need medical care I personally value intelligence, skill and ethics above all else, so I will sit this one out. I just wanted to say I appreciate your well-written, thoughtful first post and wish you well in your information-seeking.
  7. by   LovingLife123
    Just be prepared to be told that a patient wants another nurse. As someone who has spent time in a pregnancy forum a little over a year ago, there are many, many women who will not even go to a male OB these days. There are many who don't care, but I personally noticed a trend that they want women caring for them.

    We as nurses don't see an issue with it as we all know once you've seen one, you've seen them all. But the general public for the most part doesn't feel this way. It was an eye opening experience for me at least to see how little pregnant women value medicine. They are very odd and particular about their "birth experience". They all think they know more than the nurses and doctors. They want women treating them with no medical interventions. Epidurals are the devil and cause nothing but problems for the rest of your life. Being induced? Umm no. The baby will come when it's ready even if it's 45 weeks and pitocin is a guaranteed csection and then it's deemed a traumatic birth if you have to have the dreaded csection. Then, it's all about the breastfeeding "experience" and formula will most certainly make your child fat and dumb with no immune system.

    The particular birth club had 23,000 members so I got a decent idea of how people think. The debate of male vs. female OBs came up more than once. And don't even get me started on vaccines, antibiotics, testing for gestational diabetes, and cervical checks. Don't you know you have the right to decline cervical checks? They do nothing but send you into premature labor and if your OB/midwife is doing them, they are idiots. And why on earth are nurses doing cervical checks while they are in labor? Nurses are not qualified to do those and again there is no need for a cervical check!!

    OP, I think you should go for OB if that's where you want to be. Just be prepared for patients to ask for a female nurse every so often.
  8. by   macawake
    Quote from jay_prn
    I went into my studies not sure what type of nursing I wanted to do. I never thought I'd enjoy my OB rotation but it ended being my favorite rotation. I loved it. My current clinical instructor for advanced med/surg is an OB nurse, and she arranged for me to shadow on the L&D unit and help out at a pregnancy fair. The nurse manager on the unit took notice of my work and asked me to apply for the nurse residency program once I graduate. "I want to hire you," she said.
    Quote from jay_prn
    I love the work of OB and the feedback I've received from clinical instructors and other nurses is that I would shine in this field. But bearing in mind the fundamental principle of healthcare/nursing praxis, "do no harm," I am concerned that a man in OB might be too controversial and divisive.
    You've found a specialty that you find interesting, seem enthusiastic about and you have received positive feedback regarding your performance. I say; follow your heart. I'm sure a few folks might think you've chosen an odd specialty, but I personally wouldn't let that bother me.

    Quote from jay_prn
    I didn't have any reservations about it until I posted an article about men in OB nursing on Facebook. While the overwhelming majority of responses were positive, there were those who professed a strong and passionate objection to men in the OB field. That childbirth is a uniquely female experience, and men can never relate to their patient as closely as a woman nurse can, was one reason given.
    I've heard some women express that opinion, but I don't personally understand it. It's the same as saying that you can't be a good oncology nurse or oncologist unless you've had cancer, and I don't believe that to be accurate either. I'm convinced that both men and women who can't have or choose not to have children can still be excellent OB nurses.

    Quote from jay_prn
    The concern for women with a history of sexual abuse and trauma and how a male nurse could reintroduce feelings of trauma or open up emotional wounds was another.
    I had the same gynecologist for fifteen years. An excellent physician, he was someone whose professional skills I trusted and whom I felt comfortable with. When he retired I had to go searching for a new doc. I had one annual checkup with this new physician, a female. She was awful. I told her before I left that it was a good thing that I don't have any traumatic sexual experiences, because if I had, her cold (arctic) demeanor and malfunctioning motor skills (seriously rough examination) would certainly have triggered flashbacks. I found another physician who also happens to be female and I've stayed with her since. She's exactly what I want from a doctor, 100 % professional with a caring attitude. My point is; it's the level of professionalism and personality that makes me trust a healthcare professional. Their sex isn't important. I suspect many, perhaps even most, people feel that way.

    I'm sure that there are some victims of sexual abuse who wouldn't be comfortable with a male nurse or physician regardless of their level of professionalism, but that doesn't worry me since you seem to be sensitive to the needs of your future patients. With your insights I'm sure that you'll have no problems understanding and respecting if a patient expresses that they prefer a female nurse. There are many reasons a patient might prefer a same-sex nurse or physician. In my opinion it's important to respect a patient's wishes/autonomy regardless of what specialty we work in.

    Quote from jay_prn
    Finally, many women expressed that, in the current cultural/political landscape, women need more safe spaces where men are not present.
    Don't let the fact that you have a commander-in-chief who brags about his *****-grabbing skills keep you from choosing a career which seems to be one that you will enjoy and be good at.

    Sorry... completely off-topic, but couldn't help myself there...



    Best wishes!
  9. by   jay_prn
    Thank you to everyone who has replied so far. JKL33 thank you for the compliment!

    Two quick replies - I did work as a CNA prior to nursing school, and I had my share of patients who didn't want a male caregiver. It was fine, I never took it personally - patient comfort comes first. I also saw it on Med/Surg. Sometimes I've had patients who weren't sure, but who were perfectly fine after meeting me. A bit of advice I once read about nursing was: "Go into every situation and be kind, and you'll be amazed how far that will take you." (That seems like good advice for life in general.)

    LovingLife123, I have heard of a growing number of women who won't see a male provider or nurse during pregnancy. In fact, when I did my OB observation I learned about a local provider's office who will not hire any male staff. They sell their practice on the fact that their staff are all female and they do quite well. So I do gather that there will be women who will decline a male nurse, and that's okay.

    I don't want to get off track, but just a comment on vaccinations since LovingLife brought it up - at the pregnancy fair, I gave out Tdap vaccines to expecting mothers and family. It was mostly positive, but a few people were pretty hostile, saying nurses are basically murderers for giving out vaccines. It was eye-opening.
  10. by   ItsThatJenGirl
    I have a history of sexual assault, and my OB was a male. I don't think any of my nurses were male, but honestly I wouldn't have thought twice about it. Obviously that doesn't mean everyone with a history of sexual assault will feel the same, but I thought my input might help a bit.

    People might prefer a female caregiver, and that's okay. It doesn't mean you're not capable of providing excellent care, it just means that they have a preference one way or another.

    I think you should do what makes you happy. Good luck to you!
  11. by   SmilingBluEyes
    Other than cultural and religious considerations and convictions, what would stop you? There are cultures and people of certain religions that will never accept a male care provider of any sort. And a "few" women who may refuse a male nurse. Also the attitudes of your coworkers are hugely important and they need to support your being a colleague.

    Other than all that, what's to stop you from attaining your dream? Nothing.
  12. by   thatgirl2478
    So, not a nurse, but I have birthed 2 children and BOTH my OB's were men!

    I, personally, could give two craps if you are a man or a woman. Yes, you obviously won't have all the experiences that a woman has. But there are many MANY female nurses that haven't had the same experiences. Many have never had children, some have never had a c section or a vaginal birth, some have never birthed without pain meds, others have never done it with pain meds. Yes, the equipment may be similar, but that doesn't mean the experiences are.

    The question is - does that make them worse nurses because they've never had a vaginal birth and they've never experienced labor pains? No.

    The problem of women who have been through trauma is valid for nurses and doctors of both sexes. It's not something to be taken lightly, and if a patient has a preference, that preference should be honored. But I think the people telling you not to do it aren't thinking clearly and are dragging their own biases into their decisions.
  13. by   Here.I.Stand
    I think as long as you go into it knowing that some women will have an issue with it, that it's not about you, and don't plan to get all butthurt over it, you'll be fine.

    I personally am the modest type -- I chose CNM groups over OB-GYN groups because I was guaranteed a female provider at push time. It has nothing to do with my misconceptions about male RNs -- I know 99.9999999% of them are professional -- nor about any abuse history or any of that. (Plus, what about women who were victimized by a woman?)

    Relating? Well nothing guarantees a female RN has gone through L&D. Besides, it's not the nurse's job to "relate to" me.

    You CLEARLY have a passion for this type of nursing, and I think it's great -- truly.

    I really just didn't want my nether regions all exposed in front of men (except my husband...and that was even awkward for me.)

    Now as a working RN, if a guy introduced himself as my nurse? I'd probably deal. I mean I wouldn't want to create staffing issues.

    All that said, in the US in 2017, it seems like I'm in the minority. If you live in an area with any super-conservative populations, be aware of that. I have had several female Muslim pts in ICU setting whose family requested only female RNs/CNAs. But otherwise? Hey, if you love OB nursing go for it!
  14. by   ICUman
    Quote from klone

    If a male nurse applied to my department because that's the area of nursing where he feels most interested/passionate, then I would have no issue hiring him.
    Good to know, klone.

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